Friday, January 4, 2013

Resources & Relationships

As an employed single parent, I probably have hit my lowest poverty level this year. It’s been a year of transitions, as I’ve gone down to part-time at one non-profit due to financial constraints and have picked up a part-time position at Trusted Mentors (which I am so thankful for!). Child support, as many single moms know, isn’t always steady. And finally, my roommate, who has helped me in more ways than one and brings in some extra rental income, has moved out.

Therefore, as I explore the Bridges Out Of Poverty framework, I have some serious context to draw from my own life. Recently I had an interesting discussion with Afia Griffith, director of community development at St. Vincent Health, who will be coordinating our Bridges training later this month, about some of the dynamics of poverty that I’ve been experiencing…or am I?

Sure, I’ve gone months without a paycheck. Sure, I’ve learned not to rely on child support. Certainly, I’ve given up on the idea of saving for retirement anytime soon. Yet, I still realize that there is a great divide between my situational poverty experience and those experiencing generational poverty.

The poverty I’m experiencing, albeit relative, (I’m not exactly living on $2 a day like most of the world), is temporary. I have my degree, I have my house, and I have already bounced back enough to replenish most of my savings that I carved into this year. The two primary things have going for me that folks in generational poverty don’t have are: resources and relationships.

I thought seriously about one way my resources/ relationships played themselves out this past year. I have a daughter who has been diagnosed with a developmental eye disorder that requires weekly therapy from a developmental optometrist. Of course, there are only three in the entire city and the one who takes our insurance is located in Brownsburg. Now, I live and work downtown and my daughter attends a school that is also downtown. For me to take her to this appointment would require me to leave work three hours early every Wednesday, thus missing out on roughly 12 hours of pay per month. Add in gas money and you can see that this endeavor is getting a bit pricey. Keep in mind that this is therapy my daughter needs in order to do things like read, so it’s not exactly optional.

So, digging into my resources and relationships, I am fortunate that I have not one, but two grandparents who are able to take the time and energy to drive from their north-side homes downtown to pick up my daughter and take her to the far west side so that I don’t miss work and so that my daughter can benefit from needed therapy.

As a social worker, and previously a school social worker in IPS, I think about all of the students whose parents don’t have the blessing of multiple sources of support to help them get their needs met.

Keeping with the subject of my daughter, I have had the benefit of countless key resources to help in raising her that others living in generational poverty simply don’t have…here I will name a few: 1) Health Insurance, 2) Grandparents who are healthy, mobile, live in town, and were able to retire, 3) A background in social work, which led me to know what resources are out there for my child who was labeled “ADHD” even though I knew there was something deeper going on, 4) A church community, including a friend who is a physical therapist and helped me figure out what was going on with my child, 5) Two understanding employers who are also friends and give me freedom to take off work when I need to ( instead of firing me when I have to miss hours or days as I’m taking care of my daughter). My list of resources and relationships is actually too exhaustive to complete here.

As I contemplate poverty, I see how close I am to it, yet how fortunate I have been to remain out of its clutches entirely. Through my work at Trusted Mentors, I hope to help others gain a new perspective on the realities of poverty too. We will gather several of our mentors and agency partners later this month as Trusted Mentors hosts a workshop on Bridges Out of Poverty. I am thankful for our mentors as they are indeed providing a key relationship and connections to resources that our mentees so desperately need.

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